Reflections on the State of Impact Convening

Thirty years ago a group of young American business leaders began to convene values-driven entrepreneurs, investors, and capacity builders as a way to help catalyze a burgeoning impact movement. In the years to come others followed suit: dozens of conferences showcasing business innovations that were both financially sustainable and beneficial for society and the environment began to sprout — both as a response to Reagan-era consumerism and “Greed is Good” mentality, and as a declaration that business could be a force for good.

Founders of pioneering conferences, such as Social Venture Network (SVN) and Investors’ Circle, sparked a new way of thinking about the purpose of convening. They also incubated and inspired the creation of a new crop of impact-focused conferences and networks, including Net Impact and B Lab, that have spread innovative business ideas across the globe and emboldened a new generation of impact-focused business leaders over the past decades.

The role that convenings — that is, in-person conferences, summits, forums, seminars, and workshops — have played in building and shaping the impact ecosystem is the focus of a recently published Conveners.org online report. The report highlights the history of the impact convening movement, as well as provides a data-based analysis of current convening trends. Below are three insights and recommendations based on supplemental research conducted for the report; we hope that these insights, combined with findings shared in the report, can help advance the convening ecosystem conversation and lead to greater impact.

5 Top Mapping and Directory Resources for Social Impact Leaders

The impact ecosystem is expanding, and while local and regional ecosystem mapping efforts — such as UnLtd USA’s Austin Social Entrepreneurship Network Map, Cogent’s Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem Map, and Root Change’s Global Impact Investment Map (GIIMAP) of the impact investment community in Mexico and Central America — have taken shape in the past few years, a new wave of mapping initiatives are sprouting that enable leaders to better understand and navigate the larger impact ecosystem. Here are a few of those such resources that will help you see the big picture and connect the dots in between.

Convening for Impact: Latino Policy Summit ‘Day of Action’

This May the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) convened 300 Latino community leaders, advocates, and elected officials at its fourth annual Latino Policy Summit to discuss policy solutions that will positively impact Latino communities in California. The Summit showcased an array of impact-focused convening best practices, including an inspirational keynote from Xavier Beccera, the first Latino Attorney General of California, and a march to the State Capitol. As the largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country, LCF is a connector and convener who knows a thing or two about the power of convening for impact. Conveners.org’s Nayelli Gonzalez spoke with Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of LCF, about the role that convening plays to LCF’s growing network, and how the organization convenes for impact.

Why Capitalism Needs Conscious Leadership

For the past 30 years, a small yet growing faction of leaders have pioneered frameworks that are an antidote to single-bottom-line thinking — notably the Natural Stepshared value and the triple bottom line. While those and other frameworks have focused on reinventing capitalism by shifting business strategy, accounting principles and operational standards, a new movement called conscious capitalism offers a holistic approach that puts people and moral conscience at the center of business practices.

How Wisdom Can Be Bipartisan

The self-proclaimed premier gathering for “exploring living mindfully in the digital age,” Wisdom 2.0 offers a forum to learn, share and experience the benefits of conscious thought in everyday action. Given today’s times, this mindset is valuable, if not downright necessary, to create positive social impact and build a sustainable future for this country and the world.

Levi's Water Ambassadors: Employee Engagement Meets Consumer Education

Ask anyone who has children or has spent time around young ones, and they’ll tell you that kids love to remember random facts. That’s why it’s perfect that Levis Strauss & Co. has partnered with Project WET Foundation to develop custom water education curriculum and train Levi’s employees to teach young students about water conservation – a pilot program which employee volunteers kicked off last week as part of the company’s Community Day.

Called “water ambassadors,” LS&Co. employees from San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore were trained by Project WET to go into classrooms and teach students around the world about their water footprints, all while promoting water literacy and awareness.

Fashion Revolution Day: A Global Call for Supply Chain Transparency

If you see people wearing their clothes inside-out today, don’t be alarmed. In support of Fashion Revolution Day, tens of thousands of people around the world are taking to social media today, snapping selfies, tagging brands and asking them “#whomademyclothes. In so doing, they’re inviting consumers to question the origins of what they wear and calling on clothing brands to take full responsibility for their supply chains.

“Ninety-five percent of brands don’t know where their materials come from, and 75 percent don’t know where all their clothes are cut and sewn,” said Maxine Bédat, co-founder of slow fashion brand Zady and U.S. co-chair of Fashion Revolution Day. “It’s absolutely a brand’s responsibility to know where their product is sourced. This is about pushing brands to have an answer to what should be a simple question.”

In its second year, Fashion Revolution Day is a globally-organized movement that aims to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion and propel the global apparel industry to innovate toward a more sustainable future.

Cradle to Cradle Tackles the Fashion Industry

There are many reasons to be down on today’s fashion industry: water pollution, toxic chemicals, landfill waste, garment worker exploitation in places like Bangladesh, Cambodia and China – the list could go on. Yet, as we’ve read in our series on sustainable fashion, innovative groups and sustainably-minded apparel brands offer glimmers of hope that this $1 trillion industry is slowly changing course. The recent launch of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Fashion Positive offers another reason to stay positive about the future of this industry.

Launched in 2014, Fashion Positive aims to retool the entire global fashion supply chain and help create more sustainable materials, processes and products. The initiative works with fashion brands, designers and suppliers to continuously improve how clothes are made by looking at the following five categories: material health, material use, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness.

The Little Black Dress Goes Zero Waste, Thanks to Robots

When Oprah Winfrey likes what you make, you know you’re in good company. Getting a shout-out in O magazine, not to mention being recognized as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, is impressive – but there are far greater reasons to like Natalia Allen’s new collection. Allen’s attention to where the textiles in her designs come from, how the garments are constructed and how each dress is sold has created a new model for sustainable fashion that has made the fashion world take notice.

The simplicity in style of Allen’s new seamless collection should not be confused with simplicity in design: There’s much more to these little black dresses (which come in multiple hues) than meets the eye. Made by robots programmed to create zero waste, each dress in Allen’s collection is the product of science meeting design. Her garments are precision engineered down to the x- and y-axis, and the design and manufacturing process is more akin to making high-tech gadgets than traditional apparel.

What results are seamless, lightweight, modern dresses that fit like a glove – and make you feel good wearing them, in more ways than one. I spoke with Allen to learn more about what drives her purposefully-created clothes and how her approach to sustainability is to do more with less. 

A Brief History of Sustainable Fashion

Type the words ‘future’ and ‘fashion’ into any search engine, and you’ll get a stream of results on 3-D printing, wearable technology and e-commerce websites – sustainability is but a mere mention. Yet, the S-word has undeniably made its way into the modern apparel-making process and increasingly influences what lands on runways and store racks.

The fashion industry's growing focus on sustainable practices has even prompted business publications such as Forbes to hail “Green is the New Black.”

Through innovative business practices, the fashion industry has come a long way in improving environmental and social conditions along complex global supply chains. Still, it has a way to go. A brief look into the industry’s storied past illuminates how corporate style setters have responded to shifting consumer demands, market trends and natural resource constraints over the years – signaling what the future of sustainable fashion might hold.